Journalists Tell Cooksville’s Story: Here’s an Article from 1929
Journalists have been writing stories about the historic Village of Cooksville and its people for many decades—actually, during the past 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. In newspapers and magazines, in feature articles and gossip columns (and occasionally in books), writers have been drawn to the charming little “Town that Time Forgot” and to the “Wee Bit of New England in Wisconsin.”
This year, 2017, Cooksville celebrates 175 years since its birth in 1842, years filled with typical events of settlement and growth---and then, in Cooksville's case, decline and then re-discovery, recognition and re-birth. The journalists’ views over the years provide snapshots at various times in the village’s history, including the fact that the famous Senator Daniel Webster first owned much of Cooksville in 1837, buying the promising new land from the U.S. government when it went on sale for the first time in history.
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Everybody has a flower garden, except Jack Robertson. Beside the converted stable that forms his shop and living quarters, is a field of tobacco.
|Jack Robertson's Blacksmith Shop|
The writers are in their houses tapping away on typewriters. The poet [Arthur Kramer. ed.] is in front of an upper window where the white curtain blows in and out. The artistic lady [Dorothy Kramer, ed.] is weaving a rug.
Dorothy Kramer (1900-1962), weaver and potter
Ask him if he has lived in Cooksville all his life. “Not yet, he replies.”
“My father,” he continues, “was a Scotsman who farmed it out east of here and later bought out the village store.”….. You glance upward to a weather vane balanced by a fan. “Now you are looking at some of my work,” says the blacksmith. “I cut those figures out of sheet steel….They’re just figures. That one on top of the shop, though, is a man sitting on a fish’s back.”
It is just a man riding a fish. It was made in his spare time and no doubt because the blacksmith wanted to show his literary and artistic neighbors that he too could create something useless originating in an esthetic urge. When your neighbors are writing poetry, you don’t want to devote all of your time to wagon tongues and plow blades.
“I used to own the house next door,” the blacksmith continues, pointing to the red brick home of the poet. He lowers his voice. “I don’t know what he is writing,” he whispers, “but whenever I hear him tapping away, I know he is figuring out something.”
“Everybody’s stuck on Cooksville,” he continues. “They like to ride out in their automobiles and so they come here to look over Ralph Warner’s place and Cooksville. They all go crazy over the park; they call it a ‘village green,’ or a ‘common.’” The blacksmith snickers. “It’s full of weeds.”
|Susan Porter (1859-1939)|
Senator Daniel Webster (1782-1852)
In an early plat the town was not called “Cooksville,” but “Waucoma,” taking its name from the little river on which it is situated. In those early days the town fully expected that “the railroad was to go through,” an anticipation that never became a reality. And Waucoma, later become Cooksville, for years thereafter led a dull existence like some pretty country girl whose city lover hurried off after the first kiss….until the automobile came to summon Cooksville….to a giddy middle age.
|Ralph Warner, at the door of his "House Next Door"|
Without it you would never have Ralph Warner’s tea room.... Some 18 years ago, Mr. Warner, an artist and a collector, while a guest at Miss Porter’s home, became fascinated with the house next to her home….. and ever since it has been known as “The House Next Door”….. he gave up teaching art to devote all of his time to entertaining the automobilists who come to The House Next Door.
Occasionally, Mr. Warner, moved by the spirit of the past that possesses Cooksville, dons a long coat and beaver hat to greet his guests…. land’s sakes, look at the automobiles today——two big shining cars in front of Mr. Warner’s right now——ladies in flowered chiffon walking in the garden, others chatting in the parlor, tea brewing——.
|Jack Robertson, blacksmith and fiddler (1858-1930)|
*** End of the 1929 Article ***
[Sadly, the following year, Jack Robertson committed suicide by shotgun. From the Cooksville Archives. Larry Reed, ed.]